Patrick Gleeson reports on Albion’s successful trip to Middlesbrough.
Albion have taken a massive step in their chase for a play-off place by beating Middlesbrough 2-0 at the Riverside today.
An emphatic finish from Andrea Orlandi and a delicate chip from David Lopez secured the three points which see the Seagulls climb up to fifth in the table.
It proved to be a scrappy first half with chances for either side few and far between, but an awkward David Lopez cross almost caught the home goalkeeper off-guard, and if it wasn’t for the quick reactions of Jonathan Woodgate the visitors would have had the lead.
Casper Ankergren - who replaced the injured Tomasz Kuszczak for the trip, was forced into a strong save when Boro midfielder Richard Smallwood tried his luck with an ambitious strike.
Middlesbrough had their chances in the second half but found it difficult to break down a solid Albion defence. Scott McDonald found himself yards from goal with the ball at his feet but skewed wide with a panicked finish.
It proved pivotal, as Albion took the lead shortly after. A surging run down the right flank from Dean Hammond was followed by a drilled cross towards the oncoming Orlandi, and he had no hesitation in fizzing the ball into the roof of the net.
The former Barcelona man was in the mood for goals, but his strike from the edge of the box later on in the game failed to trouble Jason Steele between the Boro sticks.
Then, as play seemed settled, Liam Bridcutt popped up with an audacious, long range pass through the middle of the Boro defence to leave David one on one with a hesitant Steele. The Spaniard took a touch, looked up and dinked the ball beautifully over the keeper and into the back of the net.
The victory, combined with results going their way elsewhere, sees Albion tighten their grasp on the play-offs and close the gap between themselves and rivals Crystal Palace to just one point.